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The Things They Carried
The Things They Carried was written by Tim O'brien; who also plays the protagonist. The book starts off in Vietnam and describes the things that each man in the Alpha platoon carried both physically and mentally on the battle field. The book is made of multiple stories of the Alpha Company, each describing the men’s struggle to survive war and themselves. Ted Lavender, a low ranking soldier was first to die by a shot to the head. Company leader Lieutenant Jimmy Cross blames himself for the incident and his lack of focus on the field; the event haunts him still 20 years after the war. The author tells his story of receiving his draft notice back home. He makes an attempt to flee to Canada, but gets caught up in the remorse of disgracing his family and decides to return and honor his draft notice. The company suffers the loss of multiple soldiers, but the most important was the loss of Kiowa, who was O'Briens best friend. Kiowa died by mortar fire at night while the troop was sleeping. O'Brien describes writing his stories as a therapeutic way for him to cope with the death and chaos he had to endure during the war. Years after the war O'brien brings his daughter back to the very sites he recalls in the war, he describes it as his way of putting the war behind him so he can carry on with life.
The author and narrator/protagonist of the book. O'Brien writes the novel on account of his personal experiences with the Alpha platoon in Vietnam. He expresses his writing as a way of coping with his experiences in the war.
Lieutenant Jimmy Cross
Jimmy Cross is the leader of the platoon. He struggles with the thought of a young lady back home who he loves, but she does not love him in return. He believe his obsession of the subject later leads to the death of the soldier Ted Lavender. He is young and has no desire to lead a platoon.
Bob Kiley aka "Rat"
The medic and exaggerated story teller of the platoon. Rat posses a cruel sense of humor, but he is a brave soldier in war; he does a good job tending to O'Brien when he receives a wound from a gun shot. Rat eventually becomes overwhelmed with the gore of the war and platoons new orders to sleep in the day and travel at night. Finally after reaching his breaking point Rat shoots himself in the foot and is relocated to Japan to recover.
A soldier who has a whole chapter dedicated to him called "Speaking of Courage". This chapter describes Norman's life after the war and his struggle to fall back into a society that was past the war. He expresses feeling stuck in something that no body cares about anymore. He urges O'Brien to write a story about him, but Norman hangs himself shortly after O'brien completes the story.
As the machine gunner of the platoon, he was a larger than normal man. Despite his large build, Henry was a kind, gentle man. He is known in the book for wearing his girlfriend's pantyhose around his neck as a lucky charm because he is a very superstitious man.
A quiet soldier, who is also a devout Christian. He is the one that helps all the soldiers in times of turmoil; Also he was O'brien's best friend. He is eventually killed while the platoon camps in a field that is later recognized as a "bathroom" field. Kiowa was killed by mortar fire in the middle of the night.
The grenadier of the platoon; Ted dies in the very first chapter from a gunshot to the head. He was known in the book for have multiple ounce of marijuana on him at a time, and he deals with the war by taking tranquilizers. Lieutenant Cross blames himself for Ted's death.
A soldier of the platoon who was Rat Kiley's best friend. Curt dies while playing catch with Rat Kiley using a hand grenade. He dies from stepping on land mine. A disturbing scene of having to pick his remains out of a tree is described.
A young insecure soldier, who's frequent acts of brutality catch up with him. Such things as strapping a dog to a claymore mine and exploding it, and assisting O'Brien in seeking revenge against Bobby Jorgenson. Azar eventually admits that his cruel actions were his form of defense.
Dave Jensen and Lee Strunk
Two minor soldier who get in a physical fight over a stolen jackknife. After their confrontation they become very good friends and sign a contract with each other to kill one another if one of them was to sustain significant injuries. Strunk loses his leg, but Jensen does not kill him.
The replacement medic for Rat Kiley after he shoots himself in the foot. Fresh from the states and terrieied, he is very slow to come to O'Briens aid when he is shot for the second time in the book. Filled with rage, O'Brien decides to take action on Bobby and pull terrifyng pranks on him at night time. However, O'Brien and Bobby become very good friends after the incedent.
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien was a brutally sad book. It also was the first book that I've read about the Vietnam War. This book is a set of very interesting combinations of war stories from the Alpha platoon. At times the book was extremely descriptive which made it a little bit tough to read, but O'Brien does a fantastic job in capturing the fear, confusion, anguish, and surprisingly joys of war. This book takes you on a mental roller coaster in the shoes of a young Vietnam soldier. All in all it was good book though, and I would highly recommended to anyone interested in war stories.
?I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth." Chapter 18, pg. 179
By: Tim O'Brien